Reportback: “Woolworths wins the pokies vote, but loses PR battle”

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22nd November 2012

Today, we took the pokies reform fight straight to Woolworths Board of Directors.

We’ve just returned from Adelaide, where GetUp members and Woolworths shareholders attended today’s GetUp member-initiated Extraordinary General Meeting of Woolworths Ltd. While the vote for the reform may have been defeated today, this is just the beginning of the fight. Check out some stories, snaps and coverage of the event below.

Woolies wins the pokies vote, but loses PR battle – The Age

Woolies faces Pokies protest at EGM – ABC World Today

Woolworths shareholders reject pokies bet limit – SMH

Woolies confident of win on $1 pokies limit – The Australian

The story has also been covered on: 2UE, 2GB, 3AW, SAFM, ABC World Today, Radio National, ABC PM, 7 News, 9 news, ABC news, Ten news, SKY News, SKY Business, ABC Melbourne, 5AA – twice! – and ABC Adelaide mornings.

Karen, pictured above, is just one of the incredible members who stood up in today to ask for pokies reform.

Today could not have happened without Karen and others members who had the courage to stand up and be counted. Hundreds of GetUp members attended the EGM to stand up to the Board of one of the biggest and most notorious companies in Australia, and that was only possible because of the hundreds of thousands of GetUp members who have campaigned for safer poker machines for more than a year. This is a a true team effort, and a huge thanks is owed to the courageous members, supporters and shareholders who shared their stories – both in the meeting and from afar.

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  • Lachlan

    So proud of all who attended – know that many of us who couldn’t we’re with you in spirit and will not stop until this “industry” is reformed.

  • Anonymous

    How brave to stand up in a room full of such greed. Pity their hearts were so hardened to the suffering of others.

  • Andrew

    WOW – Well done. My heart goes out to the family’s that have lost loves one due to these deadly machines – Ex pokies gambler.

  • Natalie Lister

    Congratulations you fabulous people who attended, a great achievement in the face of such corporate might. In time common sense and the common good will prevail.

  • Northroy Mal

    The other side of this is Woolworths is using the profits from pokies to bolster supermarkets in smaller towns (like Bright and Cobram) so they can undercut the existing independent supermarkets, drive them out of business and deliver a monopoly in the medium term. Once they have no competition I don’t think they will be benevolent enough to keep the prices low for their shareholders, do you?

  • Jodie Farmilo

    Never will I shop at Woolworths again. Shareholders must have no hearts – it’s all about dollars. What a damn shame that they can’t see further than their pockets.

  • Herbert

    When you recieve one of those expensive colour leaflets/brousures in your letter box, take it back to youre nearest wooly’s store and dump it at their desk. Can you picture the mess and message it would create nation wide?

  • Herbert

    When you recieve one of those expensive colour leaflets/brousures in your letter box, take it back to youre nearest wooly’s store and dump it at their desk. Can you picture the mess and message it would create nation wide?

  • Anon

    Very proud of you all! Good on you for standing up for your morals, unlike this cheating scam called Woolworths!

  • Anon

    Very proud of you all! Good on you for standing up for your morals, unlike this cheating scam called Woolworths!

  • Kate

    Woolworths has really helped me – when I stopped going there, ever, for anything, I felt REALLY great. And I still do. Thanks for the win Woolies.

  • Mandy coulson

    It’s easy to see that the battle in the media today was won by getup members and those supporting reform of poker machines to lessen the effects on problem gamblers and the large web of the community that are their families, colleagues, friends and neighbours. Well done all who stood up to be counted, I would be very interested to know which institutional shareholders supported continuing high risk gaming machines, can you please share this?

  • Toni Francis

    Great work guys – proud to be part of the organization and always chuffed to hear Getup mentioned on news programs now without any preamble or explanation.

  • Nina

    Courage and love is always stronger than insecurities and greed. You have already won… it will just take time. I am so proud!

  • Rae

    Sorry to hear about Woolworths decision – profits before people. Well done to all those who fought this campaign. Its not over yet!

  • Mark Falzon

    Major corporations such as Woolworths are run by institutional investors such as banks and fund managers. If you want reform you have to target these investors. They control the majority of shares and call the shots. Find the largest 5 shareholders and target them.

  • Michael

    Boycott Woolies It’s the only way their shareholders will learn

  • Claire

    It will be more powerful to boycott Woolworths if we put it in writing to our individual stores.
    But how inconvenient to those who wish to boycott, who live in areas where Woolies’ competition has already been driven out. There are already two new giant Woolworths being built in Melbourne suburbs round my area. The local family-run supermarket was closed down.

  • Wayne Jones

    Time to think about a class action against the fresh food people, nothing like self interest to motivate a company like this one, and they do love money.

  • debbie

    I agree that boycotting their store is the only answer. But it is a pointless boycott unless they know the reason why. So…. we all should write a clear letter expressing why we no longer choose their stores, envelope it, address it to the attention of our local store manager and hand it to him/her in person. Ultimately, if enough people do this, they have to listen.

  • Gaye

    Great work! Just the start of the campaign that has to succeed

  • Peter

    Well done to all who were willing to take on this commercial Goliath.

  • Michele

    How do I find out who the institutional investors are who have supported Woolworths? Their values do not co-incide with mine and I’d like to make informed choices about where my money is invested.

  • Katherine

    My family has certainly stopped shopping at Woolworths and Coles since becoming aware of their deep involvement in the pokie industry. We find it shameful that our large supermarkets are so complicit in this family-unfriendly trade.

    We find shopping at small, local grocers is quicker, more friendly and not so much more expensive.

    Stay with the progrm.

  • Dudleigh Oakes

    I do think a boycott of all Woolworths businesses will in the long run make their Directors think. But it will be no effect if it is just me and a couple of others of you out there. It will need thousands and thousands of us out there to not not shop at Woolworths to have an effect. What do you think?

  • lad

    vote with your feet. We can kill their supermarket business, by not using it. Turn them into a gambling company.

  • lad

    vote with your feet. We can kill their supermarket business, by not using it. Turn them into a gambling company.

  • Matt and Kell Davis

    I wasn’t in attendance but I am so proud of those who were. And I for one will not longer shop at Woolies (I’m already a big Aldi shopper, but now any purchases I would have made at woolies will be made at Coles (lesser of 2 evils) or my local. THank you for your courageous stand. KNow there are hundreds more who stand behind you.

  • Michael Pace

    To those people who feel some compassion for those who suffer through poker machine or from any form of gambling show your dissatisfaction with Woolies by boycotting their stores.if this message gets across to everyone;Woolworth’s shareholders will soon see the error of their ways.

  • Graham Douglas

    Great suggestion! Could be applied by GetUp! in other cases too. Hit the hip pockets of those who put hip pockets ahead of human decency.

  • David

    Congratulations to all those who attended, and contributed. It’s a pity things didn’t pan out. However, the negative media Woolies is getting is brilliant. I hope it keeps up. Long ago my spend on food diverted from Woolies and Coles. I won’t buy at Aldi as they are not Australian. I discovered Aussie Farmers Direct – brilliant (but have now moved out of their delivery area). I’ve now discovered OnlyOz for other groceries. They both deliver to the door. So if Woolies, Coles, or Aldi etc have shutdown your local shops, there are great alternatives. I buy meat at the local butcher, veggies at the local Green Grocer or farmers’ markets, I’m trying to organise fresh bread from a local micro baker, and trying to get into the routine to buy stuff from the local co-ops, and grow some veggies myself. People should boycott the big guys. I try, as hard as it is these days, to buy Australian Made, owned, and manufactured groceries and products.

  • yemaya mcdonald

    I grew up in a family where my father was a poker machine addict and ended up in jail because of embezzling money to try and pay back his debts. Some weeks we hardly had enough food to eat and my mother, who already suffered mental illness was driven deeper into it because of years of worry and fear. I have always been against gambling of any kind because of my families experiences. Never! will I shop at Woolies. I actually dont shop there anyway because of many other reasons to do with Woolies greedy behaviour.

  • Olivia

    I wrote to the manager and gave it to him. I wonder how far up the ladder it went. I love Nick Xenophon’s comment.

  • David

    Coconuts are the answer… If ppl wrote their official protest regarding the Woolworths decision on coconuts and registered posted them to individual board members of Woolworths and request an individual reply – I believe that it would cause a big reaction… To my knowledge they are still counted as legal correspondence… “How many coconuts can one fit into a filing cabinet?

    At the same time inform media outlets to keep on the lookout for large quantities of registered packages that are being sent to Woolworths board members then the media attention will be incredible.

    Then it is a matter of keeping up the campain for a month or so to wear them down…
    I won’t mention the idea about fish…

  • Jay

    This decision has just reinforced my efforts to not shop / buy petrol at a Woolworths outlet.

    Will be encouraging friends and family to do the same.

    You never know if there is enough people doing it the share price will plunge.

  • Tere

    there aren’t enough of us to make a difference to boycotting – Woollies know that most people that shop at their stores don’t give a stuff about the pokie-dangers and will happily continue to buy their products. How do we change the minds of the masses, as that will make a difference….

  • Jana

    I must admit i’ve been a Woolworths shopper – but this is going to stop today! Who else is the shareholder? Let’s hit their pockets….

  • lewis

    What the??? Shareholders should not be consulted, it is a conflict of interest. Who really cares what they vote? Their opinions reflect what they think will make them a dollar not what the best choice is. This whole issue needs to be managed outside of Woolworths.

  • lewis

    What the??? Shareholders should not be consulted, it is a conflict of interest. Who really cares what they vote? Their opinions reflect what they think will make them a dollar not what the best choice is. This whole issue needs to be managed outside of Woolworths.

  • Brian Mac

    Boycotting is a great game changer, but it has to be organised. If you decide to do so, don’t do it in silence. The retail trade is already on its back foot. Let them know that you are part of “THE BOYCOTT”, every drop off in sales will be suspect. Also use shame. We do not use it, but Asian and Mediteranian societies are extremely concerned with “face”. These characters who sit on the boards of the elite corporations are protected by our reluctance to expose them to their neighbours with whom they relax with. Let their neighbours and kids know what rotten and greedy sods they all are.

  • Joyful

    In SA we have Foodland Supermarkets but I buy most from our weekly Farmer’s Market & organic Co-Op. Look for these alternatives & support local.

  • Mara Roberts

    Another great Getup campaign. Greed is not good!! Woolworths moved into our regional community fairly recently and guess what? We lost the only independant petrol station in the area, and several other small businesses which had all been operating successfully for many years. The Woolworths petrol prices do not fluctuate and grocery prices are high! I too would like to know the names of the institutional investors so we can let them know what we think of this very family and customer unfriendly company.

  • snapper

    Better still return it to them in a post-paid (by Woolworths) feedback envelope available at most supermarkets

  • Robyn Mills

    I would love to know how effective the ‘i won’t shop there’ campaign was in Maleny. All i could think of was the enormous waste as all the wonderful local people held fast to their principles whilst that monolith stocked its shelves with perishable items we principled folk would not purchase.

  • Maureen Obrien

    step by step and bit by bit…’s not much that aussies are asking their so-called big australian to do …..but this big australian is obviously satisfied that putting profit before people is an acceptable business strategy. keep up the pressure please.

  • Ken

    few getup letters on the community noticeboard will also have a impact. Acopy of my letter to head office, for good measure.

  • NotAFakeAccount

    Yeah great initiative GetUP!.Now how about a campaign against the upcoming UN vote where the UN wants to take control of the internet and bring in worldwide censorship? Or is campaigning against the UN disallowed in GETups! charter?

  • Jim

    I wonder if anyone here will boycott Getup until it hands back the $60,000 from 2012 and the $40,000 from 2011 from the major financial baker of Doctor Love? Dont know what Doctor Love is? Its a pokie site that is allegedly a site on which a woman lost $7.8million…… a little research people, try the financial review today even, you might find you are like little sheep being lead were they like.

  • Sam

    “At an extraordinary general meeting in Adelaide on Thursday morning more than 95 per cent of shareholders voted against GetUp!’s resolution.”

    Ouch. I refuse to believe that 95% of woolies shareholders are so uncaring & selfish as to vote against this. The only thing that makes sense of that 95% figure is that woolies must have done some serious PR spinning to make the proposal look unattractive or unreasonable to shareholders.

    On the other hand it’s interesting to consider the possibility that a herd of shareholders might display sociopathic tendencies as a group, which they do not display as individuals. This seems borne out by the ethical direction of most large publicly traded corporations. Although this might also be skewed by the type of people drawn to positions of power in those corporations.

    Bottom line is that we can’t ever rely on shareholders or corporations to act ethically. That’s why we need regulation.

  • Kelsey

    Thanks for writing with your thoughts, Sam. Something that may help to explain the huge difference in votes is that a huge proportion of Woolworths’ shares are owned by investment funds and super funds. It’s votes from groups like these that had a huge influence on the final result.

  • Kelsey

    Good on you Ken!

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